Wabi Cycles Relocates to Tulsa from Los Angeles

Contributing Writer

GRAND OPENING: To celebrate the opening of Wabi Cycles in Tulsa in October, the firm held a welcoming party at its 107 N. Boulder Ave. location in the Brady Arts District. From left are owners Curtis Kline and Matt Gragg.

EMILY RAMSEY for GTR Newspapers

Bicycle manufacturer Wabi Cycles will complete its downtown Tulsa debut early this year with the rollout of a new racing model.

This will bring its lineup of customizable leisure and town bikes to five.

“We’re seeing strong interest in our bikes,” says Curtis Kline, who, with co-owner Matt Gragg, bought this seven-year-old firm in May. “We think the product has potential across a much broader demographic. We are using digital marketing to attract those other demographics.”

Since its June relocation from Los Angeles to Tulsa’s Brady Arts District, Wabi has produced three single-speed models with steel frames for direct sale to internet consumers. Each offers a wide variety of custom options. A fourth model features a 10-speed gearbox. Base prices range from $750 to $1,950 through wabicycles.com, with free shipping within the 48 contiguous U.S. states.

These models appeal to the growing leisure market, says Kline, who handles Wabi’s marketing and sales chores. Shipments in the customizable commuter/town bike segment, which also includes electric bicycles, jumped 63 percent in the first nine months of 2016, countering an eight-percent drop in overall U.S. bicycle manufacturer shipments over that same period, according to an October report by Bicycle Retailer magazine.

Wabi’s fifth model, expected to begin sales in early 2017, will give the company a cyclocross racing entry. A position in that segment, which also showed growth this year, could provide the young company a nice marketing and sales advantage.

“People that race may have more than one bike,” says University of Oklahoma retail economist James Kenderdine. “And they (racing models) can appeal to bicycle magazines and enthusiast groups.”

The new Tulsa company targeted its initial e-sales towards women cyclists, a customer base originally overlooked by Wabi founder Richard Snook. Kline said Snook had primarily focused on friends and racing enthusiasts.

“We’ve actually sold a lot of bikes to women since we’ve taken over,” Kline says. “We think there’s a good, solid market there.”

Wabi also sees growth potential among college students.

“Right now we’re running digital ads to Stanford, UC (University of California) Santa Barbara, and UT (University of Texas) Austin, because those are campuses that are at the top of the list of bike-friendly campuses,” Kline says.

“The niche is high-quality, single-speed bikes,” he explains. “What you find out there on the market is that single-speed bikes are very popular because they’re simple and not really expensive, and in a lot of cases, through their simplicity, are very beautiful bikes. But what aren’t in that space are high-quality bikes. There are mass-produced bikes in a lower price range. Our bikes are like those single-speed, steel-framed bikes but they’re also high quality.”

Wabi imports its frames from Taiwan suppliers, then finishes assembly at its 3,800-square-foot 107 N. Boulder Ave. shop. The company keeps more than 200 frames in stock in order to quickly complete customer orders.

“It’s working out well,” says Gragg, who oversees Wabi’s manufacturing and supplier relations. “In terms of turnaround time, our standard bike takes two or three business days to build.”

From its June production start, Kline says Wabi has averaged $30,000 monthly sales in the third quarter. These direct-to-customer transactions originated from about 15 different states, as well as seven other countries.

“Our biggest markets are New York City and Los Angeles,” Kline says.

Kline and Gragg added a retail outlet at its Tulsa shop on Oct. 7, selling not just Wabi models but two Huntington Beach chopper-styled bicycles. While their focus remains on e-sales outside Tulsa, the duo expects that storefront to help Wabi reach their first-year sales target of $500,000.

“What they’ve got to do is reach people who cycle a lot, people who understand cycling,” says Kenderdine, professor emeritus of marketing and supply chain management with OU’s Price College of Business. “I think there’s a market. I probably would have been willing to spend for a good, customized bike.”

Updated 12-28-2016

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